Reality Blind - Vol. 1

Energy Part 2 – Energy and Humans

Swimming (obliviously) in a sea of energy

Summary: It’s been said that fish are unaware of water, because in the lives of most fish there is never a time when they aren’t surrounded by it. (The reality is that fish are very sensitive to the characteristics of water which are subject to change, like its salinity, acidity, and trace compounds). But it makes evolutionary sense that during a normal fish-life (increasingly rare these days) they can take the water itself for granted. This fish aphorism may be a decent metaphor for the energy which effectively surrounds us in 21st-century societies and suffuses our existence. Its effects swirl around us unseen, re-making the natural world around us into the “built world” we encounter . When we think of energy use, most of us think about the grid energy which allows us to plug in an appliance, the fuel which heats and cools our house, or the gasoline which powers our car. Yet these are just the tip of a very large energy iceberg which resides in our blind spots, invisible - like water to a fish - due to its ubiquity. We are the “end users” of a vast mechanized artifact which at this point degrades concentrated potential energy in billions of steps to create and maintain the remarkably high complexity of our current societies. Everything we do uses energy both directly and indirectly. When we switch on a TV, not only are we causing the moving electrons which power it to be simultaneously pushed into the wire by irreversible entropic degr adation (e.g. burning coal) somewhere on the wire’s other end, but the TV itself is a fabulously complex construction which embodies the energy of every stage of its manufacture.

There are a mind- boggling number of energetic

transformations from “dirty rocks” to “TV” (with other “externalities” like a high-volume waste stream and a witch’s brew of


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